OG Ambitions

I look like I got ANYTHING for these hoes?

*Sophia Petrillo voice* Picture it: Olney, Maryland. The year is 2010.  I’m in a hospital bed recovering from a rather nasty encounter with a pulmonary embolism, and I’m listening to my suite mate being discharged.  She uses “disposable adult undergarments” and discussed the whether or not she should attempt to go to the bathroom. After a slight bit of hemming and hawing, she’s silent for a moment and says, COMPLETELY nonplussed, “Well look…I just went in this one. What do we do now?”

In that experience, I saw my future.  I embarrass very easily.  I ultimately recover, it could be months, even YEARS later, and I’ll occasionally get totally red faced about it.  I won’t pretend to know what she was thinking, but the way she spoke said, “Look, this is what it is, let’s fix it and move on.”

One day, I’m going to be a really old broad, and I kind of want to be like that.  I’ll still be me, but I want to be like “Look, yeah I peed my pants, but I changed my alternator and put two kids through college. Holla at ya girl.”  Dammit I MIGHT throw up the Roc when I’m 70.

I’ve also decided that when I outlive my second husband, I won’t marry again. I’ll just have a boyfriend that everyone will call Mr. Charles. That may not even be his name.  But he’ll know how to hook up your carburetor, and Charles sounds like the most trustworthy name for that type of thing.  We’ll have family picnics and he’ll be all, “Go’on on and let that boy have a beer! Had my first beer at 15 years old!” He’ll say it with a square dangling from his lip and I’ll allow it.

I plan on being a pretty kick ass Gram.  But I don’t focus on that TOO much, because I don’t want to be the person who forces my kids to have kids.  That’s the type of thing that I would love, but it’s gotta be their choice.  My kids are awesome people though, so I’ll look forward to having a bird’s eye view of their parenting.

Toting a pistol will definitely be part of my old broad life.  I want a hand cannon.  I also want to shoot at least one person, just to show the other reprobates that I mean business.  Not the regular mischievous kids.  I’m talking about the real incorrigible ones.  I don’t plan on killing anyone, but I need to put one on JUST the right side of death so that they know I could if they try to test.

Don’t confuse that with me wanting to be an old douche.  I have no plans to hate kids.  Actually, I want the hooligans to be my friends. SOMEBODY has to watch my Lincoln Town Car when I go to pick up my post-menopausal medicinal reefer.  Part of being older, to me, means sharing with the folks that come behind you.  I came up amongst OGs, and they never “schooled” me by beating me over the head with messages.  The gave weight to who I was as a young woman, and shared what they’d learned with me.  That’s part of the joy of being old, I think.  Not to look back and hate that you’re not the young person that you were, but to build and give people the benefit of your experience in all things, including just how to love folks.  I really plan on enjoying every part of my journey here.

The Relationship

Mel 7

Mel 9

Mel 21

31

35

I’ve been overweight for the past 13 years. Of course my weight did the obligatory yo-yoing, but I haven’t been within a healthy weight range since the Clinton administration.  Literally.  I never had a real weight struggle, and I thought that with time, the weight would just melt off.  It didn’t. Gaining weight didn’t really have an impact on my family, social or dating life, so losing weight didn’t seem like an imperative to me.  I’m not diabetic.  My blood pressure is slightly below normal.  My knees are a little worse for wear, but that was going to happen at 35 anyway, right?

Except, this New Year’s Eve, I spent twice as long in the mall than I should have, and spent twice as much as a thinner woman might have.  And if that weren’t enough, my relationship with food is not normal.  I’m from the South, arguably from a food Mecca, so a good meal borders on artistic expression.  It’s how we show love and give comfort.  That’s not new to me.  I always enjoyed pastries and good meals.  Just now, it seems to be more of a compulsion.

I want to go back. My relationship with food has to change.  I’d like my relationship with food to NOT be dramatically referred to as “my relationship with food.”  I think the way we gain weight is a disorder, but the obsession that this country has with losing weight is equally dysfunctional.  Because it has so little to do with the actual losing of weight, and EVERYTHING to do with how the people surrounding you perceive you and how you perceive yourself.

If you look at daytime television, particularly channels geared toward women, it’s commercial after commercial for diets, “lifestyle changes,” diet products and anything else you can think of, and it’s slightly overkill.  How do we find a happy medium, where food does not have to be the difference between victory or defeat?  Have we gone so far, that we can’t just see how normal it is to enjoy a good meal, then stop after we have enjoyed a normal sized portion?

Year after year, I’ve come up with a plan of attack on my weight, and year after year, I’ve watched myself get larger and larger.  I talk myself right into failure sometimes.  “Well, I want to be smaller, but not AS small as I was.”  It leads to me not pushing myself, and falling deeper into this dysfunctional relationship I have with my dinner plate.

So I’m trying a new strategy, where I begin to incorporate meals as normal parts of my day, rather than the parts of my day that I live for, then regret 20 minutes later.  I’m also exploring what activities I should take up that I can enjoy without relying on the gym. When I was younger, though I did spend time at the gym, I also had a lot of activities that didn’t involve going to the gym at all.  Simply put, I want my life back. And I’m gonna get it too.

The Sublime Theater of the Ridiculous

Back when Beauty Jackson was just Cutie Jackson, I used to visit retirement homes and read the bible to residents.  (No. This is not a joke.)  There was one elder sister, a few pigeons shy of a flock, who just took a shine to me.  Whenever I was there, she’d seek me out and talk to me.  She was about 5’10, rather lean, with a booming voiceand always wore an elaborate head scarf.  Doesn’t this sound sweet?  Like the stuff Hallmark movies are made of.  We could have been the black Tuesdays with Morrie.

Except, she thought I was the help.  Not help as in helpful; help as in The Help.  “ANNA, I need you to bring my lunch.”  When I told her my name was Melanie, I got, “Wylangie?  Well Wylangie, I’ll need you to run to the market and fetch me a barracuda sandwich on Cuban bread and a lemonade.”   Then she stood and tapped her foot and gave me the “G’on” look.  For a split second, I thought, “How in the hell am I gonna find this sandwich?”

I learned two things:  1) Crazy broads LOVE barracuda sandwiches (she asked for one every time she saw me); and 2) Any demand, no matter how ridiculous, sounds viable when stated with authority.

This morning, I pulled into Shell, only to realize that I couldn’t find my debit card anywhere.  I can only presume it is somewhere near my computer desk, as the last time I remember seeing it was when I was talking myself out of buying a pair of shoes.  I didn’t have time to go back home, I had to scrounge for whatever dough I had in my car. Five bucks.

Part of me was ashamed.  When gas is $3.42 a gallon, who really goes in the joint asking for $5.00 worth?  I sat in the car for a moment and pondered this, and you know who asks for $5.00 of gas in 2011?  A damn G, that’s who.  I would not cower in the shadow of shame as I use my hard earned money, found in the pocket of a coat I forgot was in my car, to pay for gas to power my free Hyundai with butterfly doors. No SIR!  I decided this is how the scene would play out:

*kicks in door* GET ME THE OWNER!!! I am here to transact business! Salutations! My name is Wylangie, and I am here for the sole purpose of procuring $5.00 of your finest gas, reserved only for the realest of G’s.  I do not like to be kept waiting!  This cash register will not work itself.  Does this establishment offer free drinks for live goons? No?  They let anyone run gas stations these days.  You will be allowed to pump my gas.  Don’t tarry. *slams fiver on the counter, Naomi Campbell walks to the car, gets in and waits*

I submit that the attendant will be stunned into compliance.  I didn’t do it today, but next time, Shell.  Next time.

Stripped

“When you have the same audience for a long time, I think you start writing what you think fits that voice.”
c. Cliff’s Crib

He gave me that very real, and necessary nugget of insight when asking about my own writing.  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t occasionally ham it up a bit here.  Sure, I’m myself here, but there are times where I engage in a bit of bravado.  “All the world’s a stage,” right?  I enjoy being the clever bard.  I enjoy writing to entertain.

But sometimes, and this is no dis to the folks that dig what I do, I’m writing for you and not to you.  Though not totally wrong, it leaves room to become patronizing – totally unacceptable.  When I do that – when I prevent myself from growth – I cheat both of us with a stagnant product.  I think the folks that have been loyal to me actually come to me for something just a little left of center.  Not that I’m ground-breaking, but there’s a decided me-ness that I think folks like.  Being liked has always scared me a little bit.

I’ve always been a bit of a fringe kid.  My readership has seen a bit of an increase as of late, and I guess it sent me into a bit of a quandary.  I’m…decidedly regular.  I’m not an intellectual.  I’m not rich or powerful.  I’m just me.  This little black chick that grew up inside of books and her own head, who wasn’t used to being noticed.  So there’s a part of me that isn’t quite sure what people are looking for when they come here.  Am I supposed to be profound?  Funny?  How vulnerable can I be?  Will it be off-putting and people won’t come back?

When I write something that is enjoyed, there is a pressure to make lightening strike again, and I can get a little stuck.  I want folks to enjoy what they read – to come here with the knowledge that what they read will be fresh, insightful and real, even if unpopular.  The only voice I can give with any honesty is my own, and that’s the only voice that I will give.  Don’t be afraid to disagree with me.  I want to hear you.

This is my blog.

But you are always welcome here.

Aeronautics

For now he knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.
– Toni Morrison Song of Solomon

If I’ve sounded frightened and apprehensive recently, it’s because I am. Currently, I’m in the process of believing in myself.  REALLY believing in myself.  Going through so much in 2010, up until the VERY end, was unbelievably difficult.  I loved, lost and had a near tragic experience with my own life.  I realized that time is not going backward, and if I am going to make something of myself, the time is NOW. I was forced to take the past two weeks to slough off my past, and I realize that flying backward is fruitless.  All of my failures and frailties shaped me into who I am presently:  an ever evolving being.

There are things that could have been done differently, they weren’t, and I will never be able to change that.  For those I hurt in the process of my growth, I am sorry.  Unfortunately, life is not so cut and dry where I can promise that I would have done things differently, and things would have ended up for the better.  There are things I did as an immature person that I would never imagine doing now.  I can only start from here.

And where is “here?” Here is where I don’t owe any human being a damn thing.  I have given every bit of time, every explanation and every apology I plan on issuing out for past mistakes.  Every i has been dotted, t crossed and chapter closed.  I refuse to back pedal into the realm of dead issues because someone else is uncomfortable, uptight or angry about things that can not be changed.  I don’t remember ever feeling so light.

I’m surrendering to the air.

Let’s fly.

How Mr. Rogers Gets Kids Beat Down

Or How Plums Became My Favorite Fruit

This guy's advice >than all that bull you're talking.

You may have heard this before, but I was born a Maverick.  I didn’t want to breastfeed, I tried climbing stairs in a body cast, and I got in a fight on my first day of kindergarten.  This also marks the first time I received one of the most diabolical tag team beat downs in Beauty Jackson history.  What can I say? First day of school – go hard or go home.

August, 1981:  Sesame Street, Electric Company, commercials and of course, Mr. Rogers have me chomping at the bit to go to school.  Daniel Striped Tiger, Prince Tuesday, and Ana Platypus all got on Trolley -dressed in full school bus regalia – and soaked up knowledge.  New children would be everywhere.  School was going to be great.

I began losing the moment we went back to school shopping.  Instead of Nikes and penny loafers, I got Zips and saddle loafers.  Instead of the backpack I’d created in my vision, my mother took her time and actually sewed a bag for me.  In retrospect, I was an unappreciative snot.  To my four year old self, the indignity of my dreams deferred were unbearable.    And then:

Ma, how am I going to find out my school bus number?  What time does it pick me up?

It doesn’t.  Auntie Shirley is going to pick you up and drop you off.

But that’s not what Mr. Rogers said.

Little girl, Mr. Rogers don’t run nothing here.  I am telling you not to catch the school bus.  Your mother.  You live on Beekman Road, not in the Land of Make-Believe.

Just maybe Aunt Shirley could be the voice of reason.  I picked my moment.  Just as School Bus Trolley went through the tunnel into the Land of Make-Believe I asked, all kindergarten-cool:

Aunt Shirley, where does the bus stop around here?

Melanie, I already know that you know the routine.  I’m going to bring you to school and pick you up!  Rocky, meet her at her class after school.

These people were screwing over my entire life.  Nothing was going as it should.  In my first day despair, I didn’t want to go to school.  I had to be forced into the car. Once I was at school, I calmed down, and was delighted to discover a tin with my name on it, full of Play Doh! Mentally, I frolicked in celebration of kindergarten dreams fulfilled.

Had that beast child not bitten my arm, hence exposing her cheek and veritably begging me to bite it, this story may have ended differently.  However, since that did happen, and despite the fact that she started it, I was punished during Play Doh time.  I was 0 for everything.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the last damned straw.  At the end of the day, I had a message for my parents, Aunt Shirley, and even that unwitting snitch Rocky:

FUCK YALL!  You don’t know shit.  Mr. Rogers said I’m getting Play dough, and back packs with flowers, and PENNY loafers.  NOT FUCKING SADDLE LOAFERS!  Are we on a farm? Why are you giving me saddles?  I’m supposed to ride a bus!!!  Did Mr. Rogers say, “Okay folks, let’s all pile into the fire trap that is Aunt Shirley’s Buick?  Hell no!!! Trolley was dressed to the nines!  What’s wrong with you people?  Did Prince Tuesday try to bite a chunk out of Daniel Striped Tiger, then get mad because he left his cheek exposed and Daniel bit him back?  HE WAS A TIGER FOR SHIT’S SAKE!  If Mr. Rogers’ school day can end without a tiger biting anyone, certainly I should expect to go unscathed.   This isn’t kindergarten!! THESE ARE LIES!!! This is bullshit.  I’m catching the damn bus.

When they called for bus students at day’s end, I scooped my dreaded bag, and marched to the cafeteria.  This marked the first time I ever experienced terror.  As they called buses, the cafeteria began to empty, and I knew I would miss my chance.  I dashed through the door, breathlessly explaining that I would miss my bus. I was unprepared to hear, “Well, what’s your bus number?”  Blast.  I hadn’t thought that far.  Obviously, I couldn’t say, “Well, every adult and older kid in my life is conspiring to murk my dream, so I don’t really have a bus number.  Can we just ride around until I know what a bus feels like?”  What they didn’t know was that I had been reading since I was 3 1/2.  I saw the bus that Chad, my new boo in my mind, was heading toward, and blurted out, “FOUR-ONE-FOUR!”  They loaded me on.

You know how you do something wrong, and the experience is awful.  Nothing about it is the way you thought it would be, and you find yourself learning a lesson for the ages?  That’s not what happened here.  Kids were laughing and shouting.  One of the big girls gave me a piece of candy.  We stopped twice and screamed, “BYYYYYE! SEE YOU TOMORROWWW!” to the departing student.  Glorious.  We arrived at the last stop – then known as Lawrence Creek Apartments.  The bus driver smiled and said, “Isn’t this your stop baby girl?  Time to go home.”  Obviously it wasn’t, but I hadn’t thought that far.  I knew the apartment complex.  Family friends lived  there.  Aunt Cassandra and Uncle Wayne.  They’d get me.  Total cakewalk.  As children filed to their parents, I debated turning left or right.

I halfheartedly called to them at the entrance of the complex, then started to cry.  A nice lady walked across the street, and I spilled my story.  She invited me indoors, but I was hesitant because she was a stranger.  Mr. Rogers told me not to mess with them, but I was admittedly out of options.  Plus, she had a little girl slightly younger than me wearing a Barbie shirt and eating a plum (exotic fruit to my apple and banana munching ass), so I’m winning again.  She saw me hungrily eye the plum, and offered me two.  As I was relishing in the taste of my first plum, she was calling the school to report that she’d found a lost child.  Within minutes, my aunt and the school principal pulled up to the house.

Dear Readers, I took one look at my aunt and walked to the principal’s car like I’d never seen that woman or Buick in all my days.  Though all smiles with the principal,  I knew that she was totally over me and my big bag of bull.  I was prepared for it to get really bad, really quickly.

Auntie Shirley, have you ever had a plum?  They are SO GOOD.

To this date, I believe that only fear of incarceration prevented her from putting the remaining plum in my sock and bludgeoned me to death.  Instructed to finish the plum,  I savored it as though it was my last meal.  For couple of epidermal layers, I’m sure it was.  Shirley had first dibs, then before my nose dried, Mama tagged in.  When Daddy got home and she explained the story to him, I took one look at his face and laid across the bed.  I knew the drill.

My family and I always recount this with a mixture of humor and terror; it could have been a really bad scene.   But, this is a story I’m sure I’ll tell well into old age.  I defied all odds to ride the yellow dragon, and lived to tell the tale.  Plus I still roll with plums.  HARD.

Who’s bad?

You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.” So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy!

– Tony Montana Scarface

Once upon a time, I was married.  I hated it.  We were mismatched, ill-equipped and just flat-out wrong for one another.  I left–without a clear-cut game plan.  We were part a community that frowned on divorce.  If there was no clear evidence of cheating you were, for lack of a better term, stuck.  He knew this, and though I knew he was cheating, I didn’t know he was cheating, and guilt tripped myself into passivity.  We remained married and added another kid into the mix.  Ever the maverick and rebel, I chose being “a good girl” over being smart.*  I can not stress to anyone how ridiculous it is for an individual to make major life altering decisions at 21. It was then that I realized, we weren’t together due to love and commitment.  We were like two people in a public bathroom, waiting each other out for the chance to funk it up.  So after the last bad scene in a string of bad scenes, I took the kids and we left.

It was rough, because where I suffered the marriage in silence, he was very vocal in suffering his embarrassment.  On the surface, I left, so he had the high ground.  He went to church, played Tank songs, and whenever he had the children, he made sure they looked dirty and pitiful.  Poor urchins with their crazy mother who didn’t want to be married anymore.  It didn’t matter that they were in my custody and I received no support; he was to be pitied.   I had to stand the hard-line amidst ridicule, ostracism and ultimately threats to my personal safety.

At the end of the day, I’m not afraid to be the hammer.  I believe that as much as it might burn, if something isn’t working, it just isn’t working.  Rough times, yes, I believe that’s to be weathered.  But there was nothing salvageable about that marriage.  There are tons of relationships – even outside of the romantic spectrum – that are like that.  Even if it’s a bad job, or a friendship that has become healthy or one-sided, no one wants to be the trigger man.  It’s much easy to play the role of “He just stopped speaking to me,” or “She just gave her two weeks notice without any reason,” because the victim role is easy.  Irrespective of the toxicity that precedes the leap into villainy, we have this compulsion to need to be the one wronged.

So I ask, why can’t we just decide that something is wrong for us and press on.  Why does there have to be closure, and discussions, and all the other nonsensical rituals that allow us to be trapped in things that are wrong for us?  This isn’t a call for chronic callousness and irresponsibility, and there are definitely some circumstances where discussion and discourse are needed. I didn’t walk away from my marriage and never speak to homie again.  We still had two kids to care for, and custody and visitation to arrange.  We spoke on that.  However, the circumstances of divorce was something I refused to hash out, because we’d covered all of that before.  Everyone has regrettable actions in their past, but I can say with certainty that I have never regretted removing the kids and myself from that situation.

I think, whenever something seems daunting, it would behoove us to have the balls to get up and make something happen.  Just because I did this in this aspect of my life, it doesn’t mean I do it always.  I think I just needed to remind myself that I could.

*No, being the good girl does not equate being dumb, but to disregard self-preservation in favor of the mere appearance of good is absolute insanity.